The Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) has released the results of their most recent parking inventory for the region (Excel file with methodology here). The numbers for Downtown tell a particularly important story, one that will need to be repeated over and over in the coming years.
In short, don’t let anyone tell you, ever, that Downtown doesn’t have enough parking. There are now over 78,000 parking stalls in Downtown Seattle (using the broader ‘Center City’ definition of downtown). Over 4,000 new stalls have been built since 2010.
Yet even with the significant job and housing growth seen in the last 3 years, 2,000-3,000 fewer cars per day are parking Downtown than in 2010. Commute Seattle reported earlier this year that drive-alone commuting is at a record low of 34%. Overall downtown parking occupancy rates range from 50-70%, far lower than the 80+% the city aims for in on street parking. Though our building codes mandate ever more parking (with limited exceptions), supply exceeds demand, and this imbalance is slowly accelerating thanks to overbuilding.
Much more below the fold.
So when we inevitably hear that fully implementing the Bicycle Master Plan downtown will take away too much parking, perhaps a few hundred spaces, we need to be able to leverage the fact that there are 30,000 currently unused spaces elsewhere Downtown. We can make Downtown safe for bikes without damaging vehicle access.
Or consider the Center City Connector (1st Avenue Streetcar). The mixed-traffic option would remove 97 parking spaces, while the exclusive option would remove 144. Remember, too, that the exclusive option costs less to build, less to operate, and would have significantly better ridership. When we have 30,000 spaces unused, and the difference between a questionable transit project and a great transit project is 47 parking spaces, the choice should be crystal clear. We can make even surface transit through Downtown fast, frequent, and reliable without damaging vehicle access.
In summary, we have a huge surplus of parking. We can give lanes to streetcars and bikes and buses and still have a huge surplus. If there’s a perception of a parking scarcity, or off-street parking is perceived as overly expensive and/or confusing to navigate, those are all problems that call for better marketing, utilization, and education, not wasting valuable urban land on unneeded supply.
This is great data that makes our case for more human-centered uses of the public Right of Way. Once this last generation of mega garages gets built (Amazon and Hedreen et al), maybe we can finally stop building more parking and instead build more of the amenities that make Downtown accessible, usable, and enjoyable for all. Can you imagine what the impacts to affordability might be if every project didn’t start by digging a 6-story hole in the ground?